Commentary

What I would've lost if I'd won

MCT Information ServicesDecember 3, 2012 

As much as it pains me to admit this, I now understand why Republicans in Congress are fighting so valiantly to prevent taxes on the nation’s wealthiest Americans from going up – even if it means chucking the poor and the middle class over a cliff.

You see, last week I very nearly became a half-billionaire.

This is my story.

I’ve never been much for playing the lottery. I’ve always figured if I were ever to become stinking rich, I’d do it the old-fashioned way – by the sweat of other people’s brows.

Specifically, I envisioned a nice gig as a CEO somewhere, with a board of directors composed of old friends willing to help me strip the corporation of all its value, including all the copper wiring and pipes on the premises, before granting ourselves generous severance packages as we walk out the hole where the door we sold off used to be.

But when the Powerball jackpot topped the half-billion mark, I just couldn’t wait for my vulture capitalism ambitions to be fulfilled.

So I exerted energy standing in line at the corner convenience store – a far shorter line than many Americans endured on Election Day, now that I think about it – to buy a ticket.

OK, three tickets.

It was a fool’s errand, to be sure. I had read that the odds of my winning were about 1 in 175 million.

I also had read, with varying degrees of credulity, that I stood a better chance of being injured by a toilet (1 in 10,000), dating a supermodel (1 in 88,000), becoming president of the United States (1 in 10 million) or being canonized (1 in 20 million).

But I plunked down my $6 just the same.

And, wonder of wonders, I came within five numbers of winning. On two tickets.

Yes, I’m aware that getting only one number out of six, twice, isn’t really all that close. But I’ll tell you what: It opened my eyes to the plight of the plutocracy.

Right off the top, the feds would have taken 25 percent of my hard-earned money, presumably because they figure I know how to find the Cayman Islands on a map.

Eventually, though, I would have paid federal taxes at the top rate of 35 percent. Plus, state taxes.

Now, let’s take into account the fact that I would have been forced to share this jackpot wealth with the two ticket-holders who, you know, actually got all six numbers.

Before I could yell “Look out, exploding toilet!” I’d have been left with a pittance, really. Barely enough to live off.

But, to make matters worse, President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats insist that the top tax rates must return to the Clinton-era 39.6 percent. As I’m thinking this through, I’m weeping like John Boehner.

I mean, I can take the hit because I got only one number out of six, twice. But what about those poor rich people who could see their tax rate skyrocket from 35 percent to 39.6 percent?

Who will speak for them? Besides the Republicans, I mean?

These are our job creators we’re talking about. Granted, they haven’t used the Bush-era tax cuts to create jobs quite the way we expected the past 11 years.

But if we shove them into veritable plutocrat poverty just to help pay down the national debt for wars and stuff, our nation will never get out of the hole we’re in.

OK, technically, the people in the top tax brackets aren’t actually in that hole. They’re up on the cliff. Looking down at us, in the hole at the bottom of the cliff.

But they shouldn’t see their taxes raised to discomforting levels unheard of in a whole decade. No. They should be canonized.

MCT Information Services

Daryl Lease is an editorial writer for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va.

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